Photo by Lili Gooch
We are four days into our summer holiday. Last night was an unusually late night out and not so surprisingly (but in fact quite uncharacteristically) the children are sleeping late this morning, needless to say I am making the most of this rare occurrence and I am enjoying a well deserved lie-in.
I am looking out at a perfect clear blue Southern European sky and I am just starting to feel the warmth of the early morning sun and it feels good, I can sense my body responding and even without my first coffee of the day it is willingly coming to life.
I had imagined the beginning of this particular family holiday giving me some food for thought and possibly some material worth sharing in a blog, but in fact even before we left home we had news that meant that the blog was destined to be something quite different from what I could have imagined.
I was conscious yesterday that I was starting to relax and that I could feel some of the stress of the real world back home fade into the ocean as I sat on the beach and soaked up that eternally restful vista of waves breaking on the shore. In the pre children days it would take less than a day to fully relax and to lose myself in my holiday, since our sons moved in I am aware that I am now never completely relaxed – not even when on holiday – and although I can shed the burden of the stress of work and the endless bills to pay back home, the awareness of the responsibility of being parents sits heavily on our shoulders and carries its own special kind of pressures that never seem to leave you.
This is a very special holiday for our sons because we have invited their elder sister along. The sister that had always been there, the sister that had looked after them when birth mum didn’t, the sister they had left behind at the foster parents – the sister we took them away from. The sister they clearly – and obviously – love so very much.
She has had a pretty terrible time of it almost all of her life and we just can’t help feeling guilty at the fact that we have added to that, not intentionally of course, but by breaking up the family when her brothers came to live with us. I wrote in a previous blog Ask The 8 Year Old about the fact that she had been given the absurd and totally unrealistic ‘choice’ of either staying with the foster parents (and the known security that offered) at the expense of being separated from her brothers, or waiting for the huge unknown of adoption.
Her obvious decision to stay did not result in any kind of ‘happy ever after’ as not only was life in the foster home quite tough for her – but it broke down after two years.
Moved to a new foster home we have been hopeful that she would settle and be happy, but unbelievably and tragically that is not so and it was this shocking piece of news that we were given just before we left the UK.
We were told that at after just over a year and a half into the placement, the new foster parents have expressed their need to give her up too – not because of anything she has done, but because of some vague family circumstances. Social services say that they are trying to resolve the situation, but they sounded anything but hopeful.
It seems she is destined for the typical life of an ‘older child in care’, being passed around from pillar to post… unless of course we step in and adopt her too.
It’s the logical thing to do isn’t it? She is the sister of our sons, practically family already – are we really going to stand by and watch her childhood be destroyed further and not do the ‘right’ thing? Are we really just going to keep our fingers crossed and hope that eventually she will find a home and the love she deserves?
It’s obvious what has to be done. We know what is best for her. We are possibly the only people in a position to turn things around, to give her a secure, loving home and some hope for the future.
Yet to be brutally honest – it just isn’t that straight forward and we just don’t know if we can.
Of course I want to say ‘yes we will adopt her’, but it could be the wrong thing for us – for our family. We know our youngest is still not fully settled, even after three years with us and we also know that change is one of the most difficult things for him to cope with.
We know he can feel threatened when his brother is getting more attention than him, even when it is from their sister and that has been more than evident over the past couple of days.
We feel the boys have adjusted to their position as youngest and oldest child in a family of four and we fear that another child 5 years older may upset the equilibrium that we have worked so hard to achieve. Social services would not even consider putting an older child into a family if is was not a sibling and possibly only then if the situation is as desperate as this one is.
We feel that we have all ‘grown into’ our family over the last three years and that the ‘fit’ is just about perfect for all four of us now. We have never doubted our love for our sons – that was pretty instantaneous – and we don’t question their love for us now, but there was an incredibly difficult settling in period that we had to work hard to get through, there are clashes of personality that have had to be worked on, big ups and down that we have had to adjust to and learn to appreciate, to tolerate and learn how to deal with and now there is a history of understanding, respect and love as a family, as a family of four.
Although far from perfect, things are good – in fact very good now – and we are scared to threaten that on any level.
But isn’t that all just horribly selfish? Isn’t it just far too much all about ‘us’? Is that really how we should be making decisions in our lives? Keeping them safe, keeping them manageable because that suits us, regardless of the potentially devastating affect that can have on others.
There is of course the possibility that the sister could join us and all will be OK, that some of the issues we are still dealing with our youngest could actually be resolved by reuniting the siblings, that there may well be no major issues of any sort and indeed bringing her back into their lives now could be preventing issues we would face in the future when they start to wonder why she was excluded from our family.
Thankfully she is currently unaware of the new placement being under threat, but it is news waiting for her upon her return in just over three weeks time and if we step in now there is no reason that she need ever discover that truth. Ironically – and potently – she has already expressed her desire to be with us long term (that happened on day one out here) and I am pretty sure if asked she will now make the decision to be with her brothers.
It feels like we are faced with an impossible decision, we somehow feel like we could be damned if we do – and damned if we don’t.
Although time is against us (as a decision needs to be made before we return home) I guess for now we will just get on with our holiday and hope that as each day closes we will start to feel more and more sure of ourselves as a family of four or hopefully we will be feeling like a family of five. I guess we are hoping that the decision somehow makes itself and what ever that decision is it will indeed be the right decision for ALL of us.